Friday, August 12, 2005

Down with the MSM!

Now I'm normally not so gung ho when it comes to hating the mainstream media as is our good friend at MGoBlog. Today, however, a certain member of the MSM who covers a certain pro baseball team wrote an article that got me going. It was an article touching on such subjects as a certain team not having enough speed, having a lineup that seems cooked from a rotisserie league, etc. I'll refrain from naming names for now.

I took the time to write a well thought out and statisitcally supported argument disproving much of what this columnist wrote and sent it along as an email. This columnist was kind enough to respond very promptly, within perhaps 5-10 minutes of my writing it. The response, however, included the following: "here's why i prefer to zero in on what i see instead of using stats spread over the entire season". Thanks. It's nice to know that you don't care if I can prove you wrong, but you trust your eyes. You probably also trust your eyes when looking at these lines to figure out which is longer instead of using a ruler.

The columnist used such phrases as "big hits", "late innings", and other such mumbo jumbo. Now normally I blow such talk off as just the uninformed spouting off with no basis for their opinion other than what they were taught 30 years ago. Well, the earth isn't flat anymore and these members of the MSM should not continue to misinform the public.

Here's what I'd like to see. If you are going to go on and on about things like "hits with runners in scoring position", "clutch hitting", "small ball", etc. then at least have the guts to try to prove your opinion right with some numbers. If I can shoot holes in your argument left and right and you don't care, why should anyone believe anything you write? Consider me a critic. Prove me wrong. I'll happily admit so if I am.

As an aside, here's a brief overview of my opinion on statistics (particularly concerning baseball):
--stats do tell the whole story (or at least most of it), you just have to know which ones to look at
--some stats reflect past performance (BA with RISP, W/L record, record in 1 run games, RBI)
--other stats are much better predictors of future performance (K/BB ratio, OPS, DIPS)
--the key is telling the difference between the two
--don't forget sample size

For example, Derek Jeter. This guy has a monster rep, in no small part due to his good play in the 1998 and 1999 World Series and fantastic play in the 2000 World Series. Does that mean he's a "clutch" player (assuming clutch means he's more likely to have future big performances in big situations)? Not really any more so than does his all around good play during the regular season. He was clutch in 1998 and 1999 and 2000 postseason play but that is what I'd call a stat indicative of past performance and not predictive of future performance. Here are Jeter's career WS batting stats (as noted by BA/OBP/SLG):

1996: 6 games, 20 at bats, .250/.400/.250, 1 RBI, 5 runs scored
1998: 4 games, 17 at bats, .353/.450/.353, 1 RBI, 4 runs scored
1999: 4 games, 17 at bats, .353/.389/.412, 1 RBI, 4 runs scored
2000: 5 games, 22 at bats, .409/.480/.864, 2 RBI, 6 runs scored
2001: 7 games, 27 at bats, .148/.179/.259, 1 RBI, 3 runs scored
2003: 6 games, 26 at bats, .346/.393/.462, 2 RBI, 5 runs scored
career regular season numbers: .315/.385/.463
career world series numbers: .302/.375/.434

Did Jeter suddenly forget how to become clutch in the 2001 World Series? He only had 4 hits in 27 at bats against Arizona. For the record, he was also only 2/17 in the ALCS against Oakland that year. Isn't it amazing that the larger the sample size, the closer his WS numbers are to his regular season numbers? And please don't bring up clutch as being hits with his team trailing by 1 run in the 7th inning or later. When you start narrowing down that far, you start getting to sample sizes you can count on 1 hand during the season. The stats are much harder to dig up, but trust me when I say that they reveal the same thing. Over a large enough sample size, performance in all situations regresses to the mean (as measured by overall regular season performance).

Is it reasonable to assume that Jeter's clutch rep is based on the following?
  • The Yankees are always good, always on TV, and have won a lot in the postseason
  • He's a good player that puts up numbers regular season or postseason
And not on the fact that he has some special ability to get big hits? I think it is a reasonable conclusion. Heck, most of the career Yankees have a rep as clutch players. Bernie Williams, Jorge Posada, and Tino Martinez are all glorified as players that know how to come up with big hits. I call bull. I'll take Barry Bonds (steroids and all) or Albert Pujols at the plate with 2 outs in the bottom of the 9th in the 7th game of the World Series and the winning run at 2nd base. They might not have the past history of success in that situation, but they do have career numbers that predict success in that situation in the future.

Sorry for the rant, but that darn MSM got me going today.


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